Nikitch & Kuna Maze
The collaboration project between musician Nicolas Morant aka Nikitch and Brussels-based producer Edouard Gilbert aka Kuna Maze began when the duo met at the Chambery Jazz Conservatory in France. Before attending university to study jazz, both artists had trained in classical music while growing up in the Lyon countryside.
This early musical development laid the blueprint for their musicianship today, allowing the duo to gradually explore the new artistic languages of jazz, and later electronic music. Both artists used their time at university to widen their horizons, encountering other musicians from outside from classical and jazz music circles, and as a result, started gigging and working on projects beyond the conservatory’s curriculum.
It wasn’t long until the duo started making electronic music together – a genre that wasn’t popular at the conservatory at the time, as retaliation. Born out of wanting to try something different, and a mutual love of the same artists, the pair produced their first beat on the train from Chambery to Lyon.
Musically influenced by the likes of Theo Parrish’s Signature Sound imprint, Moodymann, Idris Muhamad and International Anthem’s signee Resavoir, the duo take inspiration in the creative process of producers such as Max Graef and Glenn Astro. Nikitch & Kuna Maze channel their instrumental skills to create compositions using their common chemistry; blurring the lines between improvisation, production and the art of DJing. All these aspects become the creative DNA for the duo and become a catalyst in the music itself. “It is the approach to the craft”, Nicolas says.
Both musicians eventually found a home on the French label Cascade Records, initially as solo artists – until releasing their first collaborative EP as Nikitch & Kuna Maze – titled “Cake”, an animated opus of moods, with five tracks spanning across jazz, progressive house and chill out.
‘Débuts’ is the France-via-Brussels duo first full-length album. Building on their collaborative EP and debut release on Tru Thoughts “Mush”, ‘Débuts’ continues to explore the melting point between jazz and club culture, interspersed with the signature sounds of broken beat, Chicago footwork, UK garage, Detroit house, and underpinned by their road-tested new live format.
‘Débuts’ is fronted by lead-single “Hey, This Must Be Deep” a track that evolves from a string-synth soundscape intro into a bruk swung-groove, with a firm nod towards Brazilian jazz/funk. The title of the single is a homage to the words spoken by jazz-poet Gil Scott-Heron at one of his legendary one-man shows.
‘Débuts’ see’s the band push their musical and creative development even further, a result of touring extensively around Europe with a live drummer, from high-brow jazz festivals to sweaty basement clubs. “We would be lying if we said our gig experience didn’t influence us on this record” Edouard explains. “We discovered new aspects to songs such as “Bruk” and managed to push forward the energy side of the music from the rawness of the live shows. This energy empowered to produce and compose new material in the same vein”.
Featuring standout tracks from their EP “Mush”, such as the vibrant jazz-funk explosion “ZBRA”, broken beat revivalist anthem “Bruk”, downtempo and spoken words snippets of “JPS”, the frantic footwork and juke influences in “The Leak”, and soul-saturated “CBD”, it’s perhaps the newer material where the band begins to move beyond some of the aesthetical frontiers that they had in their creative path.
“We sung on “Francis’ Theme” which is something we would have completely not dared to do before” explains Edouard. The risk pays off. Tracks such as “46 Rue Du Fort” and “Monopoli Driver” tie the feelings of shared experiences at geographical locations to the music itself. A frantic taxi driver in the Italian village of Monopoli is cemented into the footwork frenzy of “Monopoli Driver’, “46 Rue Du Fort” is the address of the rehearsal space in Brussels, and “Francis’ Theme” is simply a soundtrack dedicated to Edouard and Nicolas, the Francis’ boys – a nickname given to the duo by their drummer.
Talking about signing to the Brighton label, Nikitch & Kuna Maze said: “With Tru Thoughts being 20 years old this year, it’s exciting to be part of this historic label. 20 years is quite an advanced age in the electronic music scene, which is pretty young.”
Having already performed a blinding set at Worldwide Festival, both supporting Machinedrum under their own aliases at Le Sucre in Lyon, Nikitch & Kuna Maze have picked up praise from tastemakers such as Gilles Peterson, Tom Ravenscroft, Nemone, Lauren Laverne (BBC 6Music), Laurent Garnier (Radio Meuh), Lefto, Lexis, 20Sly, Grems, Nightmares on Wax, Tina Edwards, Toshio Matsuura (Worldwide FM), Kid Fonque (Selective Style), Tim Garcia, Tony Minvielle (Jazz FM) and gained press support in FACT Mag, XLR8R, Mixmag, Solid Steel, Majestic Casual, Music Is My Sanctuary, Trax, Le Mellotron and many more.
The future is looking bright for the French pair and they can feel it too: “The biggest career highlight will always be to come”.Read more